News from the DNR Office of Communications

Judge Upholds DNR's Suspension Of Convicted Poachers

Annapolis, Md. (October 14, 2010) —  John Franklin Riggs, 43 and William Howard Beck, 43, both of Rock Hall, Md., will be prohibited from engaging in any commercial fishing activities for at least two commercial oyster seasons in the State of Maryland, after Administrative Law Judge Neile Friedman upheld the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) proposed suspensions of the men’s commercial fishing licenses.

“It’s important that we hold anyone who wantonly breaks natural resource law accountable,” said DNR Secretary John Griffin. “We must protect what hard working Marylanders have invested in our Bay and fisheries.”

During the 2009-2010 oyster season, both Riggs and Beck were convicted for possessing oysters at night and violating commercial striped bass regulations. Beck was also convicted for using a power dredge to harvest oysters in a prohibited area. Both men have numerous fisheries violations going back decades.

In the decisions in these cases Administrative Law Judge Neile Friedman highlighted the challenges of enforcing natural resources at night, and concluded that “The Department of Natural Resources is committed to pursuing convictions against poachers because poaching has contributed to the significant decline in the oyster population. The Department is working hard to restore the oyster population, but its efforts will be thwarted without cooperation of the commercial waterman.”

These suspensions come on the heels of both the opening of the 2010 oyster season and implementation of Governor Martin O’Malley’s Oyster Restoration and Aquaculture Development Plan. The plan increases Maryland’s network of oyster sanctuaries, expands the leasing opportunities for oyster aquaculture, and maintains 75 percent of productive bottom for a more targeted, sustainable and scientifically-managed public oyster fishery.

A noteworthy part of this program is the launch of increased enforcement initiatives. DNR has suspended or revoked eight commercial fishing licenses this year for oyster violations. DNR’s enforcement efforts will be aided by a network of radar and camera units in sensitive areas that are prone to poaching, which went online this month.

“The decisions in these cases, will hopefully serve as a reminder that the Department has been and will continue to diligently protect and restore our native oyster population because of the great ecological and economic value oysters provide to all of the citizens of the state”, said Secretary John Griffin.

   October 14, 2010

Contact: Josh Davidsburg
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages nearly one-half million acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at